Thai PM sues newspaper for 500 million baht

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Wednesday, October 12, 2005

The Thai Prime Minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, has filed criminal and civil suits against Manager Media Group plc, the publisher of a Thai-language daily newspaper, Phujadkarn (Manager). At issue is the publishing of a sermon by the well-respected Buddhist monk Luangta Maha Bua that compared the Thai Prime minister to Phra Devadhat, the Thai Buddhist equivalent of the devil.

Mr Sinawatra's lawyer, Noppadol Meewanna, filed the two lawsuits on the Prime Minister's behalf, citing the newspaper, manager Saowalak Theeranuchanyon, and editor Khunthong Loseriwanit as defendants. This civil suit demands 500 million baht (approx. 12 million US dollars or 10 million euros). The associated criminal case seeks to have charges of libel brought against the defendants. The complaint argues that the defendants should have edited the sermon text to remove potentially libellous sections.

Deputy Prime Minister, Wissanu Krean-gam, stated that there was no active policy of persecuting the media and that Mr Sinawatra was acting in a personal capacity in bringing these cases.

The criminal case is due to be reviewed on November 18, when it will be decided if there are grounds for taking it to trial. If the court finds against the defendants they face a maximum penalty of up to two years in prison and up to 200,000 baht (approx. 5,000 US dollars or 4,000 euros) in fines.

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